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Citizen Lab Launches Security Planner

Many of us feel we could be doing more to stay safe online, but it can be hard to decide where to start and which advice to follow. At Citizen Lab, we track digital threats targeting civil society groups that usually require complex solutions. However, we are often asked about security advice “for the rest of us.” Fortunately, experts tend to agree that there are basic steps that anyone can take to make their accounts and devices safer. We believe that these practices work like a vaccine: when more people take steps to be safer, everyone’s safety increases.

That is why we are launching Security Planner, a new approach in making the first steps of online safety easier to take, even for those who don’t feel digitally savvy. Security Planner is an easy-to-use platform with tested, peer reviewed recommendations for staying safe online. With just a few clicks, Security Planner tailors straightforward recommendations based on someone’s digital habits and the technology they use. Recommendations are presented with clear language, making it easier to decide if they are right for someone. Our goal is to put people in a position to move from learning to action.

Online security is a journey. And Security Planner is an accessible starting point for that journey, walking individuals through simple practices, like enabling two-factor authentication on important accounts, making sure software stays updated, and using encryption to protect devices from loss or theft. For some, these terms might not be familiar but Security Planner will help them move past the jargon to take more control of their online safety.

“Two shortcomings in many popular digital security guides are that they may not be regularly updated and often include inaccessible or idiosyncratic recommendations that may not be useful to everyone. By keeping it up-to-date and providing accessible advice from an expert peer review group, Security Planner will raise the security bar for average Internet users on an ongoing basis.” – Ron Deibert, Citizen Lab Director and Founder

Security Planner is designed to give everyone the tools and knowledge necessary to stay safe online.

Finally, it asks questions to identify people who, because of who they are or what they do, may face additional risks. Since these users are likely to require deeper, more personalized assistance, Security Planner points them to organizations and resources that offer these specialized services.

Security Planner is a project of the Citizen Lab, an interdisciplinary group based at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto that focuses on the intersection of technology and global security. Security Planner was incubated by Jigsaw and handed off to the Citizen Lab in December 2015, and receives additional funding and support from Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization division of Consumers Report.

“We find ourselves living more and more of our lives online, and it’s important that everyone is aware of the simple steps to immediately improve your digital defenses. We are thrilled to partner with Citizen Lab as a home for Security Planner going forward because digital security should be easier. Our hope is that Security Planner, a resource for updated, peer-reviewed and personalized steps to bolster anyone’s online security, makes staying safe online as simple as possible.” – Justin Kosslyn, Jigsaw Product Manager

Our recommendations are developed by a peer review committee of experts from universities, nonprofits, and the private sector. The committee has decades of combined experience in digital security and produces recommendations that balance objectivity, accountability, and accessibility. This approach ensures that no private company can exercise influence over the products or services that we recommend. Security Planner is also overseen by an advisory board whose members include some of the world’s leading thinkers and practitioners in the digital security space. Read more about the peer review committee and advisory board members here.

Threats online evolve over time, which is why we designed Security Planner to evolve as well. Citizen Lab and the peer review committee have a regular update schedule for the tool, to keep the questions and recommendations up-to-date and relevant.

Clear advice and simple steps for your personal online safety are only a few clicks away. See for yourself at Security Planner.